Plows were fabricated locally, or, when cash was available, farmers might import farm equipment such as the Eagle plow through New Orleans and Galveston.
Commerce generally depended on wagons to and from the port of Galveston; some produce was floated down the rivers. Although steamboat transportation and railroad construction began in Texas before the Civil War, river steamer and rail transportation were generally postwar developments.
After the war the traditional cotton plantation system continued, but with tenant farmers in place of slaves. Tenants were both black and white, but the latter far outnumbered the former by As the economy became more of a money-based system, small farmers increasingly slipped into tenancy or left farming. Generally, in tenant farming the landlord or planter contracted with the tenant for the cultivation of a small plot of land usually in the range of 16—20 acres on which the tenant was expected to raise as much cotton as possible. The planter ordinarily received one-third of the income from the crop for supplying the land, and one-third for provisioning the farmer with tools and housing, while the tenant received one-third for the labor.
Credit was extremely expensive and scarce for the planter and disabling for the tenant, who commonly ended a year more deeply in debt than before. Despite the difficulties, the number of farms in Texas rose from about 61, in to , in and , by Stimulated largely by the extension of railroads throughout Texas between and , farm and ranching enterprises expanded rapidly as emphasis on commercial production and marketing grew. Subsistence farming and small farm operations declined. Cattle and cotton production dominated farming operations through the remainder of the nineteenth century, but wheat, rice, sorghum, hay, and dairying became important.
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Mark Francis , the veterinarian for the experiment station, initiated research that helped lead to the eradication of Texas fever in cattle and greatly improved livestock production everywhere. In cooperation with Seaman A.
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In the college assumed responsibility for the greatly expanded demonstration farm program and appointed special agents to direct demonstration farm work. This activity became the impetus for the development of formal cooperative extension farm programs, entered into by agreements between the college and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Cooperative extension work became a national farm program under the terms of the Smith-Lever Act of , which established the Agricultural Extension Service. Advanced cultivation practices, improved plant varieties, the mechanization of agriculture, and the greater availability of capital contributed to both higher yields and increased acreage in cultivation. Bonanza farming and large-scale cattle operations, often funded by foreign investors, developed in Texas in the s. Many of these ventures failed in the depression of the s.
New corporate operations developed intermittently after After the Civil War falling prices, high credit and transportation costs, and after a national depression, precipitated farm organization and revolt. Although some farmers in the state joined the Grange the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry , first established in in the Midwest, Texas participation in that group was weak.
The Grange sought to impose state regulation on railroad freight rates and grain-elevator charges, to lower credit costs and put more money in circulation, and to reduce tariffs on nonfarm products. Texas farmers began to seek these measures through their own association, the Farmers' Alliance , which originated in Lampasas County in Under the leadership of Charles W. Macune , the Texas Farmers' Alliance embraced the Grange objectives and stressed the development of farm cooperatives.
This organization grew rapidly throughout the South and into the Midwest. These organizations, like the Northern Farmers' Alliance, advocated paper money as legal tender, the unlimited coinage of silver, government control or ownership of railroads and telegraph systems, lower tariffs, a graduated income tax, the Australian or secret ballot, and the direct election of United States senators, as well as expanded public education.
The Alliance movement, in turn, led to the organization of a national farmers' political party called the People's party of America or Populist party. Although the party generally failed to achieve its objectives, by the time of its demise after Populism had began to influence the programs of the major political parties. Prosperity returned to Texas farmers in the first two decades of the twentieth century. As both rapid urbanization in the United States and the advent of World War I increased the demand for agricultural commodities, their prices rose more rapidly than those of nonfarm goods and services.
Because of the resulting favorable economic position for farmers, between and the number of cultivated acres on Texas farms grew from fifteen to twenty-five million. Cotton production expanded from 3. Rice farming, which had been introduced in the s on the Coastal Plains, produced nine million bushels annually by Wheat, introduced to Texas near Sherman in , had emerged as a major export by ; production and milling centered in the north central area, around Fort Worth, Dallas, and Sherman. Such favorable conditions brought further expansion to the state's agricultural system.
With mild winters and available irrigation water from the Rio Grande, the area became one of the state's most prolific farm sections.
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By first planting sour orange rootstocks in , Charles Volz and others such as John H. Shary launched the citrus fruit industry in Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy counties, where, by , 85 percent of the five million trees were grapefruit. Furthermore, those same counties, with the Winter Garden area to the north, became a major site for commercial truck farming of such vegetables as onions, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, beets, and spinach. During the same period the High Plains also emerged as a major area for crop production.
As cattlemen placed their large ranches on the market, cheap land prices in an area without the boll weevil made the region particularly attractive to cotton farmers.
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With the development of cotton types adapted to the plains environment by scientists at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station at Lubbock, the planting of hard red winter wheat varieties, and the widespread adoption of the tractor, the one-way disk plow, and the combine, the High Plains became one of the state's premier areas for both cotton and wheat production by the end of the s. By that time the basic structure of the state's modern farming system appeared to be in place.
While livestock producers focused upon raising cattle, sheep, and goats on the grazing areas that covered approximately 70 percent of the state's acreage, farmers grew crops on Cotton, planted on 60 percent of the state's cultivated acreage, outdistanced all other commodities as a cash crop. Though it was grown in most areas of the state, the heaviest concentration was on the Blackland Prairies, the Coastal Plains around Corpus Christi, and the Southern High Plains.
Acreage devoted to corn was usually second to cotton in the eastern half of the state, while sorghum was the leading livestock feed in the western half. Wheat, which was produced most extensively on the Northern High Plains and in the counties along the Red River, led the small grains and ranked second to cotton in cash-crop receipts.
Besides the citrus and vegetable industries in South Texas, such truck-farming goods as tomatoes, watermelons, and peas were marketed in northeastern Texas. In most areas of the state cropland was interspersed with pastureland; stock farming was therefore more common than other farming. Texas farmers like those throughout the nation experienced hard times during the s. The decade began with the agricultural crisis of —21, when postwar commodity surpluses caused a sharp decline in the prices farmers received for their crops.
Instead of making efforts to curb production, farmers turned to various panaceas to remedy their plight. Some joined marketing cooperatives such as the Texas Wheat Growers Association or the Texas Farm Bureau Cotton Association, in which producers pooled their harvests with the hope of forcing processors to negotiate prices.
Others sought to cut costs by replacing draft animals with tractors and increasing their crop acreage. Yet the imbalance in the marketplace continued on to the end of the decade, thus contributing to the economic catastrophe of the Great Depression. The number of farms in Texas increased from , in to , ten years later, while cropland harvested grew by 3.
Despite the surpluses, the acreage planted in wheat virtually doubled, from 2. The farmers' plight grew even worse when a drought accompanied by high winds brought about the Dust Bowl , which was particularly severe on the High Plains, where crop production virtually halted.
With these developments rural poverty spread across Texas. The implementation of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal farm programs had both an immediate and long-range impact upon the Texas agricultural system. The Agricultural Adjustment Act of launched a series of programs designed to control surpluses and to maintain a minimum level of income. For such basic commodities as cotton, corn, wheat, rice, hogs, and milk, farmers accepted acreage allotments and marketing quotas and engaged in soil conservation practices, in exchange for receiving payments or guarantees of parity prices through nonrecourse loans.
In addition, the availability of both long and short term credit through agencies of the Farm Credit Administration made money more accessible. Furthermore, the Soil Conservation Service was established to awaken farmers to the need of protecting their land through such techniques as terracing, contour listing, strip cropping, and the maintenance of vegetative cover. The combination of the government programs and the nation's involvement in World War II laid the basis for a major shift in the structure of Texas agriculture. First, farm tenancy declined from 60 percent of the state's farm operators in to Furthermore, the rapid growth of good industrial jobs in urban areas during the war years contributed to a decrease in farm population from 2.
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The improved economic situation for Texas farmers, along with a guarantee of 90 percent of parity prices for at least two years after the war, set the stage for the modernization of the Texas agricultural system. A major step towards the transformation of Texas farm life occurred with increased mechanization. The foremost factor in this change was the emergence of the tractor. Though steam tractors had been introduced at the turn of the century and gasoline tractors had appeared before World War I , mules and horses remained a common source of power until the s.